Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Ocean City for Labor Day

    Posted By on September 1, 2014

    One of many impressive examples of "sand castle" art along the boardwalk

    One of many impressive examples of "sand castle" art along the boardwalk

    Despite taking the family on a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon and two weeks in Alaska, I was informed that I was a failure because we didn’t visit the beach all Summer.  Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the beach, but the next thing I knew we were spending a huge wad of cash to visit Ocean City for the long weekend.

    Candy and me being lifted into the air

    Candy and me being lifted into the air

    A highlight of the weekend was a spur-of-the-moment parasailing adventure.

    Sam and Tom going airborne

    Sam and Tom going airborne

    We also bought tickets for all we could play miniature golf.  Over the four and a half courses we played, we had a record 20 holes in one!

    Larry, Moe, and Curly

    Larry, Moe, and Curly

    We spent both evenings walking up and down the boardwalk, had some nice meals, and generally had a good time.  Considering this is the last big weekend of Summer at the beach, the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as I expected.  It was a nice way to spend the weekend.

    Ugh!

    Ugh!

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    Posted By on August 31, 2014

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    In the past two weeks I’ve had a chance to run two GAMER events with vehicles.  As mentioned in an earlier post, the infantry rules are pretty solid.  We find some interesting nuance from time to time that must be addressed, but the infantry rules are largely complete.   As a result of recent play test, I have been able to streamline the vehicle hit resolution procedure, think about terrain effects on vehicle hits, and redesign the vehicle record card, getting it from two 3×5 cards down to two.

    In the low-resolution version (in which each figure in a squad has all the same attributes, a double-sided 3×5 card is need for an infantry squad (shown below).  A vehicle requires one of these double-sided cards for the crew and a double-sided card (shown above) for the vehicle.

    Current version of a low-resolution infantry record sheet

    Current version of a low-resolution infantry record sheet

    Correcting the Deficiencies in Card-Based Activation

    Posted By on August 31, 2014

    A common issue with card-based systems is that everyone sits around watching one person perform actions.  For years I eschewed card-based activation in my designs.  I employed card-based activation for Blood and Swash, because a figure can’t do much with a single activation, so the amount of idle time for other players is short.
    The LSNC family of rules (and Battles of GASLIGHT) addresses this through the double activation TM mechanic.  Typically, but now always, many people are acting at the same time.  This has been demonstrated to limit idle time, even in really large games — particularly if the players are thinking about their next move before their card comes up.
    With the use of the joker (or reshuffle card that ends the turn before everyone has gotten to move), however, it occasionally occurs that a unit cannot activate for several terms.  While this is probably realistic, it can be frustrated from a gaming perspective.  You could pull out the joker, ensuring that everyone activates during a turn, but to some extent this defeats some of the fog and friction that intended in card-based systems.
    Two Saturdays ago, during a small gaming session at Buck’s War Room, we were discussing this.  Below is what I’d like to try.  It’s too late to test this in time for the upcoming release of Bear Yourselves Valiantly, but I’d like to try it during my next G.A.M.E.R. session.  If it works, I can publish it to the yahoo groups gang as an “official” optional rule.
    ————
    Proposed optional rule:
    The overall commander from each side is issued some number of “activation tokens.”  When the reshuffle card is drawn, all the remaining cards (below the joker) are turned over.  If a number (e.g., three) did not get any cards (e.g., neither the black, red, nor “handicapping” three was drawn before the joker), an overall commander can spend ONE activation token to pull ONE of the undrawn cards ahead of the joker.   The player may choose whether to pull either the red, black, or “handicapping” card ahead of the joker.
    Players declare that they want to use an activation token and give the token to the game master BEFORE either commander declares what number card will be moved ahead of the joker.  Only one activation token may be spent in any given turn per side.  If both sides wish to spend an activation token during a turn, they each declare which card they wish to bring forward AFTER having already paid the game master.  If both commanders want the same card, it will be activated only once.  In the case that both commanders want the same card, neither commander gets his activation token back.  One player may choose to activate the red card while the other player chooses to activate the black card with the same number.  If both sides pull a different card forward of the joker, the cards are activated in the order that they would have appeared if the reshuffle card had not been pulled.
    Units from BOTH sides whose die matches the card, may activate according to all the existing rules for activation, including die swapping and “rolling off” when units from both sides have the same activation number.
    The recommended number of activation tokens to give to each side is two or three.  Most four-hour games only last eight to ten turns.  You want enough tokens to be meaningful, but not so many that you may as well pull out the joker.  The GM may allocate additional activation tokens to the attacking side to ensure that they actually get to attack instead of sitting at the edge of the table waiting to activate.
    ————–
    Let me know your thoughts.

    Bridge

    Posted By on August 30, 2014

    I found this bridge yesterday at Michael’s craft store.  It is reminiscent of the one that came with the old Marx Blue and Gray Playset, but I think it’s a good size for 28mm figures.

    I placed the first figure I put my hands on in front of the bridge for scale.  I think the bridge was about $7.  If you are interested, it was where they have all the plastic dragons and other animals.

    Colonial Marines!

    Posted By on August 24, 2014

    One group of marines

    One group of marines

    At Cold Wars I purchased these new figures that are meant to look like the colonial marines from the Alien movies, specifically the second movie, Aliens.  The paint job is okay, but didn’t photograph very well on my phone with the flash. In particular the faces look awful in these photos.

    Another group of marines

    Another group of marines

    I am planning on using the GAMER rules that I’ve been developing with these figures for some sort of science fiction skirmish.  I also painted the crew of Serenity, so they’ll get mashed up into the game as well.

    Lt. Gorman and some marines

    Lt. Gorman and some marines

    The civilians

    The civilians

    Finished up some stuff early this morning

    Posted By on August 23, 2014

    Last weekend I began working on some 28mm WWII figures.  When I started working on GAMER, I found that I didn’t have the right figures to make correct squads.  I had lots of men with submachine guns, because I got them to fight giant ants in a pulp game.  So a couple of conventions ago, I purchased a bunch of figures with rifles and BARs.

    The whole mob

    The whole mob

    This morning I put on the finishing touches and flocked them.  I wanted to have these done it time for Fall In.

    Some fantasy buildings

    Some months ago, Chris and I made a bunch of fantasy buildings for our 10mm Bear Yourselves Valiantly projects (white and blue building in the foreground).  Chris noticed that tops of Tropicana orange juice looked like they might be arenas or larger buildings.  I’ve been tinkering with them, but finally finished them this morning.

    A Little Weekend Gaming

    Posted By on August 17, 2014

    Marder II gets a track hit from a bazooka, and the crew bails out

    Marder II gets a track hit from a bazooka, and the crew bails out

    As my wife and kids are off visiting my mother in law, I invited a few buddies over for a small gaming session.  I find that early play testing rules is often better with a smaller group.  I am still refining the vehicle rules for GAMER and wanted to test some ideas with just three or four guys.  Only two could make it, Chris and Duncan.

    I set up another tank-heavy scenario involving a scratch German force attacking an American position.  I was hoping to get a couple of close assaults and some bazooka fire.  I also wanted another test of the vehicle damage procedure.  All seemed to work well, but I still need to think a little about how vehicles interact with cover and vehicle movement speeds.

    Stuart facing off against a 38(t)

    Stuart facing off against a 38(t)

    There Germans started with four tanks, while the Americans just had a Sherman and a Stuart.  The Americans also had two infantry squads, each with a bazooka.  The Germans had two tank hunter teams, one with a panzer faust and the other with a panzershreck.  Even though the Pz. IV fired first, the Sherman knocked out the Pz. IV.  The Germans never got much momentum, and the Americans gradually attritted them.  In the end, it was a convincing American victory.  I just need to clarify a few points with regard to the vehicle hit procedure.  Also, I think that vehicles are moving too slowly.  I also need to play with indirect fire.

    After the WWII game, I cooked some hamburgers on the grill and we talked about game design a bit.  In particular we were trying to brainstorm ways to account for the drawbacks of card-based activation without going back to IGO-UGO.

    Tree monster hit with a flame spell starts to burn

    Tree monster hit with a flame spell starts to burn

    A couple of years ago, Chris, Dave, and I were working on a set of rules for wizard battles.  After the WWII game, we pulled out the wizard game again and fiddled with it some more.  We came up with some good ideas.  When I finish with writing Bear Yourselves Valiantly and G.A.M.E.R., I’d like to resurrect the wizard battle game.

    Toy Soldiers

    Posted By on August 9, 2014

    A couple of weeks ago Sammy ran her first convention game at Historicon.  She used my Eureka toy soldiers fighting the Eureka teddy bears.  That reminded me that I had 12 more toy soldiers in my ready-to-paint box.  This morning I knocked them out.  These are the last ones I purchased before they stopped updating the line.  The others were painted to resemble Britains grenadier guard figures, but for these I decided to vary the colors a bit.

    Recent Painting Projects

    Posted By on August 7, 2014

     

     

    It’s been a while, but I finally had time to do some light painting.  I took the opportunity to knock a couple of things off my painting queue.  The first was a batch of knights I got in a convention flea market.  I have been toying with the idea of a jousting game for some time.  I’ve played in several jousting games that have been fun, but they often get boring quickly as the number of decisions is quite small.  So, I have some ideas that I’ve been thinking about while pushing a bunch of flab around the streets for an hour in a vain attempt at weight control.  I’ve had some ideas for an opposed die roll dice progression mechanic that will be just right for jousting, I think.  The problem with dice progression systems (i.e., d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, etc.) is that they break down after d12.  Each die adds .5 to the expected value.  E(d4) = 2.5.  E(d6) = 3.5.  E(d8) = 4.5.  Etc.  But when you get to rolling two dice (say, d6 + d8) instead of a uniform distribution, you get a bell curve.  Recently I’ve seen that d14, d16, and d18 are readily available.  I think a die progression mechanic with a lot of variance (4-20 instead of 4-12) is finally feasible in a way that I can live with, mathematically.

    Some weeks back I posted some pictures of some WWII Americans riding giant eagles and some Eureka Stukasauruses.  I traded something to Chris for his unpainted Stukasauruses.  After sitting on them for several months, I finally painted them.  I have Major Objective (the guys who custom made the Americans for my eagles) working on some Brits to ride on griffins.  I will pick them up at Fall In, so watch for a weird world war two game by Cold Wars.

    2014 Alaska Vacation: Last Day

    Posted By on August 4, 2014

    One of many stuffed animals at the visitor's center

    One of many stuffed animals at the visitor's center

    Our last morning, we finished packing all our gear to get ready to turn in the RV.  Then we drove back into downtown Anchorage to see the Park Service visitor center.  There were some nice displays and a couple of really nice movies, including this one on the Northern Light: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdy8jjc9-TM

    The Reindeer Sausage Nazi

    The Reindeer Sausage Nazi

    On the way out we stopped at this cart to get a reindeer sausage.  The sausage was terrific, but the guy was a little brusque, including a sign saying, “Get off your cell phone and complete your private conversations before stepping up to order.”  Reindeer sausage was terrific!

    Our last lunch in the RV -- cleaning up all the leftovers

    Our last lunch in the RV -- cleaning up all the leftovers

    We then drove near the RV rental outfit and stopped to fill up the gas tank and the propane tank.  We then ate most of the leftovers we had left in the refrigerator — our last vacation meal.

    Panorama from one of our rest stops

    Panorama from one of our rest stops

    As a sort of recap, here are a couple of neat pictures that didn’t make it into previous posts.  You may need to open the panoramic pictures in another view to see them fully.

    Panorama on the Ruth Glacier

    Panorama on the Ruth Glacier

    In this picture Tom moved part way through the picture so that he could be in it twice!

    The stone man across the street from The Sourdough Mining Company

    The stone man across the street from The Sourdough Mining Company

    This is a replica of a navigational aid that Alaska natives would build along the trackless tundra to help guide themselves to good hunting grounds, home, etc.  This one was set up across from the restaurant at which we had our last dinner in Alaska.

    Flying home, looking down at glaciers and mountains

    Flying home, looking down at glaciers and mountains

    Farewell Alaska…